Dovid Vigler

You Are Not Too Old and It’s Not Too Late

Image source: annatodica

Motivation is what gets you started;
Habit is what keeps you going

 I’ve heard it’s said that a man marries a woman, young, sweet and beautiful, hoping that she’ll never change—but she does. And a woman marries a man, inexperienced, immature and penniless, hoping that he’ll change—but he doesn’t!

Whether this axiom makes you laugh or cry, I think it’s fair to say that many of us would like to improve in some area of our lives, but we’re not quite sure how to go about it. A congregant of mine told me this week that her best days were definitely behind her, and I protested. “I’m too old,” she said.

Well, I’d like to introduce you to one of the most exciting personalities in Jewish history. This man, who lived 2,000 years ago, is identified in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 86a) as the single most influential person in the development of the Oral Torah. Elsewhere (Menachos 29b), the Talmud tells of a fascinating story in which Moses saw this man in a prophetic vision and was humbled by his greatness to the point that he felt that the Torah should have been given through him, rather than through Moses. The man’s name is Rabbi Akiva.

What I find most fascinating about Rabbi Akiva is that he didn’t actually begin his career until he turned 80 years old! He was raised as an illiterate shepherd and actually went to preschool to learn how to read at the age of forty, together with his own son. When Rabbi Akiva began to teach Torah, he amassed 24,000 students, all of whom mysteriously passed away in an epidemic, a cataclysmic event that we still commemorate in these weeks between Pesach and Shavuos.

What was the secret of Rabbi Akiva’s astronomical success? How did he go from the metaphorical rags to spiritual riches, soaring at such an advanced age to become one of the most influential Jews in history?

The Midrash (Avos d’Rabbi Nasan 6) reveals to us a surprising encounter that motivated Akiva the ignorant shepherd to become the world renowned Rabbi Akiva.

One day, he was shepherding his flock in the Judean hills when he stopped for a drink of water at a brook. There he saw drops of water falling onto a rock, and he noticed a hollow in the rock, over which the water was flowing. Peering at the hollow, it dawned on him that the soft droplets of water are able to overpower the tough rock through the power of consistency.  He then declared that “if the water penetrated the stone, the waters of Torah can penetrate my heart of stone.” 

The novelty was not that the water can hollow the rock; but how it does it. It suddenly dawned on him that change doesn’t happen overnight—it happens in tiny increments. To fulfill your dreams you don’t need to be extreme; you just need to be consistent. Slow and steady progress will get you to where you want to go. If you are persistent, you will get it, but if you are consistent, you will keep it!

This truth is evident all around us. Brushing your teeth or working out at the gym one time will have little effect on your dental or physical health. But doing so every day for 3 months will transform you! Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you need to keep on moving. Marital harmony doesn’t happen in a magical moment of romance or in the illusion of love at first sight. It’s the consistent acts of thoughtfulness and gestures of consideration that will capture her heart.

In his NY Times bestselling book, Atomic Habits, James Clear clearly maps out this universal truth as the key to success.

“Forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead. 

Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results. If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

900 Hundred years prior to Atomic Habits, our very own Maimonidies wrote that developing mindful habits is the key to success since habits quickly become second nature. Cutting edge psychological studies have shown that just like a path in the African Savannah is formed through the animals repeatedly taking the same route, our minds develop pathways based on recurring patterns of thought and action. It’s called neuroplasticity—the ability for the brain to adapt or change over time, by creating new neurons and building new networks.

Nochum Markowitz was a Yeshiva student who didn’t enjoy learning, wasting much of his time on other interests. In 1976, in a private meeting with the Rebbe, he confessed about his poor performance in Yeshiva and the underlying problem. 

Instead of admonishing him, the Rebbe lovingly instructed him to make a daily time to study Torah, but to strictly limit it to just five minutes a day and no more. From time to time, he could increase the amount by an additional minute.

Encouraged with a realistic goal, Nochum energetically began to study just five minutes a day. It often happened that he had to stop in the middle of a sentence because his time was up. The result was that those five minutes became a highlight of his day, a personal time when he could recharge and collect himself. He began to look forward to picking up where he had left off the day before, and eventually his learning increased bit by bit, regaining a love for Torah study and finding renewed meaning and satisfaction in life.

Just like the law of compounding interest—where astronomical wealth will be earned through miniscule, yet consistent, increases in principal—don’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one. If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.

This Wednesday marks the most famous Jewish holiday that you’ve probably never heard of—Pesach Sheini, the Second Passover. Rooted in the Written Torah, it was established by G-d exactly thirty days after the first Pesach, to allow people who missed the boat, no matter why, to get a second chance. Pesach Sheini is the Jewish Festival of Second Chances–reminding us that it’s never too late and that we’re never too old!

Steve Jobs said that “the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Be the change you want to see in the world.

Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418  | 561.624.2223

Instagram @JewishGardens

About the Author
Raised in South Africa, Rabbi Dovid Vigler is the founder and spiritual leader of Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. As a gifted orator and creative thinker, he strives to share the beauty and depth of Jewish Mysticism in a clear, conversational and down-to-earth manner. Whether in his popular in-person and written sermons or in his thought provoking Torah classes on social media, he raises his students to new heights by transforming ancient pearls of wisdom into modern solutions to timeless quandaries His weekly Radio Show—The Schmooze—was internationally broadcast on six stations, reaching nearly one hundred thousand listeners weekly for almost a decade. His most recent book, “If G-d is Good, Why Can Life Be So Bad?” is renowned for its unprecedented approach to making timeless Jewish mysticism understandable and relatable even to most uninitiated readers. It is available on Amazon. His inspirational books, seminars, essays and uplifting messages can be found on Follow his daily teachings at
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